The NEAT Way to Boost Your Wellbeing and Avoid Disease

Whether we like it or not, exercise is crucial for good physical and mental health. Yet most of us don’t get regular exercise. And for the majority of us, a standard weekday involves the majority of waking hours in a chair. That might be your office desk, or your car, a cafe chair or the lounge at home, but nonetheless, it’s a chair.

And that sitting all day is literally a silent killer.

It’s not my usual style to get hypey and melodramatic but when I say it’s a silent killer, I mean it. Obesity researcher Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic put it this way: “There’s no getting around it: Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.”

Research shows that being sedentary is linked to a host of ailments, as well as premature death. So if your job involves long hours at a desk, as mine does, what do we do?

One answer is NEAT.

NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It’s the normal movement we do when we’re moving about just living our everyday lives. It includes walking the dog, typing, showering, housework, gardening and even fidgeting. Even playing with your hair counts as a NEAT activity because it uses energy! Who knew?

It’s obvious that moving burns energy. That’s nothing new. Yet i t turns out that even trivial physical activities play a substantial part in increasing our metabolic rate. When added up, these small activities and movements culminate in your daily NEAT.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say NEAT could be a critical component in how we maintain our body weight and/or develop obesity or lose weight.

So while going to the gym, running, and other intentional workout routines all play an important role in your physical fitness and wellbeing, they aren’t the only ways to burn calories. If you can increase your NEAT activities into your day you’ll reap many physical benefits.

Action Steps

There are many ways you can increase your NEAT activity by simply getting up out of your chair and moving around. The options are only limited by your imagination!

Here are 5 to get you started…

1. Stand Instead of Sitting
Seize every opportunity to do things standing that would normally be done sitting. Shift your balance from one foot to the other to use more muscles and therefore energy. Stand up and down on tiptoes. Who cares if people think you’re weird, this is for your health!

2. Walk Instead of Standing
Go out to a corridor and pace while on the phone. Have a walking meeting when you’re meeting a colleague to discuss something. Take the stairs. (An oldie but a goodie!)

3. Incorporate Movement Into Your Daily Commute
Park further way from work. Get off the bus a stop before you need to and walk the rest of the way. Even if you take your time, you’ll still get your blood flowing, greatly helping your brain and body.

4. Move Around At Home
I’m not talking about full-on exercise here. Think NEAT activities – small things that will keep your body moving. Stretch in front of the television. Cook dinner instead of ordering takeway.

5. Get Outside.
Play outside with your kids. Do some gardening. Play with your pet. Just keep moving while enjoying being out of the office and out of the house.

All these day to day movements add up. The amount of everyday activity you get — beyond the 30+ minutes of traditional exercise you might be doing — might eventually matter even more for your overall health than trips to the gym or other exercise time!

And you’ll benefit in the short term too – you’ll reduce muscle stiffness, increase your energy and burn calories. What’s not to love?

Which of these will you do today?